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Gambero Rosso Carbonara choices?

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Hi Chowhounds,

Has anyone read this article in the Times about the best carbonara in Rome? http://tiny.cc/QfkfV

In addition to articulating some interesting sociological dynamics about Roman kitchens, it establishes L'Arcangelo and Antico Forno Roscioli as having the best Carbonara in Rome. What do you think about the choices?

At home I like to make carbonara with Hazan's recipe but don't usually get it at restaurants, because I like to order things I wouldn't necessarily make at home. Although Hazan always lists pancetta as ingredients, this article says that is a "no no." I also read in another Times article that guanciale should be used in amatriciana. (This was echoed by one of the men at La Tradizione where I buy my cured meats). I figured the new guanciale craze in American restaurants had a lot to do with the fact that it was banned for so long.....

I knew that guanciale tended to be used for amatriciana but thought pancetta was used for carbonara....Also, what about all gricia?

If pancetta is used in these dishes, does this mean it is definitely an inferior dish/restaurant? When should pancetta be used? Frankly, I have thought all along that pancetta tastes pretty darn good! Guanciale is great too, and I feel like I need to use less of it because of its richness, which I like.

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  1. The biggest difference I find in guanciale vs pancetta is guanciale being much sweeter because sugar is added when it's cured.

    <Frankly, I have thought all along that pancetta tastes pretty darn good!> We are definitely simpatico on that point!!

    Unfortunately as someone who goes to Italy every year, I was dismayed at the thrust of the article and that they said many restaurants would have no Italians in the kitchen with the next ten years. This makes me very sad as one of the major reasons I go is gastronomy. There's nothing like that first meal when we get there and let out a contented sigh that we are back in Italia!!

    1. I've been using guanciale to make Amatriciana (it's on the menu for tonight, coincidentally) since reading that earlier NYT recipe. I've also used guanciale once to make carbonara. I'll make either with pancetta, or bacon, if that's what I have around. For me, at the end of the day, the question is, does it taste great? If it does, it doesn't really matter to me which is used, or who is cooking it. I agree that one needs less guanciale, due to the richness of it.

      I do wonder if Hazan's recipe calls for pancetta b/c guanciale wasn't readily available at the time - haven't checked her book to see if any of her recipes mention it.

      1. We are fortunate in the Bay Area to have the Fatted Calf, an artisanal charcuterie, which makes a great guanciale. I use it in amatriciana, but would happily use good quality pancetta in amatriciana. I wouldn't use bacon because I think the smokiness wouldn't work for me in that dish. In carbonara, I use Hazan's recipe and use pancetta or bacon, whichever I have on hand, which I think better complement the eggs and pepper than the guanciale does. Also the guanciale I get from Fatted Calf, even when sliced thin, doesn't get as crispy as pancetta, and I like the textural variation with the eggs and crispy pork meat.

        In response to MMRuth's question, I do believe Hazan in one of her books mentions meat from the jowl of the hog but says that pancetta or bacon would be an adequate substitute since guanciale wasn't available or made in the US when she wrote the books. Just like Mastering the Art of French Cooking recommended blanching American bacon to make lardons, to get rid of the smokiness.

        I'd love to know what a poster from Roma or Lazio has to say about pancetta vs. bacon vs. guanciale in carbonara.

        While I am a traditionalist, I think that after much experimentation, I would use pancetta or guanciale in both carbonara and in amatriciana and not get too hung up about it, because they end up being very similar.

        1. A quick search of the many recipe sites on the web and you will see recipes with white wine, with cream, with peas, with chicken, with pancetta, with bacon, with pork belly, with just about anything you can imagine. The traditional dish is much more humble. It is creamy concoction consisting simply of eggs, guanciale, pasta, cheese and fresh ground pepper. (Guanciale being the cured, but unsmoked hog jowl).

          There are more and more local sources of guanciale popping up all the time. Do a little research, talk to your local farmers and see if there is a place near you that cures their own. On top of the Fatted Calf, there are three national sources of guanciale, Niman Ranch in California, La Quercia in Iowa, and Armandino Batali, Mario Batali’s father, in Seattle, all sell their respective versions online. Although, recipes calling for guanciale often say it is ok to substitute pancetta or good slab bacon, I say use the guanciale if you can find it.

          For those interested, I have posted my own recipe online at: http://nochoiceatall.blogspot.com/200...

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          1. re: Hobsons Choice

            I live in Rome and have very strong feelings about guanciale! It differs from pancetta (more fat, harder texture, taste totally different) and is the thing to use in anything originating from Rome/Lazio, ie. Amatriciana, Carbonara and Gricia, (Say also all Romans I know) so in a Roman restaurant, it would be a sign of tradition and quality.
            That said, I am aware that outside of Italy (even within Italy, outside of Lazio), it can be hard to get guanciale, so you will have to make do with pancetta or even bacon for the most unfortunate.
            And: A carbonara consists of pasta (in Rome most of the time rigatoni), egg(s), cheese, guanciale, blackpepper and oliveoil. The discussion in Rome is along the lines "egg, egg plus eggyolk or two eggs?" or "only pecorino Romano or some Parmiggiano mixed in?"... Never ever cream, milk or other stuff..... Everytime I read about a "carbonara" recipe on the internet (mostly blogs) I am cringing!